This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial

This House of Grief: The Story of a Murder Trial

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Pub Date: 11/02/2016

Extent: 320pp

Format: paperback

ISBN: 9781925240689

Rights: World: Text Publishing

  • A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year, 2014
  • Winner, Ned Kelly Awards, Best True Crime, 2015
  • Shortlisted, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Colin Roderick Literary Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Kibble Literary Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Indie Book Awards, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Australian Book Industry General Non-Fiction Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Nielsen BookData Booksellers Choice Award, 2015
  • Shortlisted, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, United States, 2015
  • Shortlisted, Western Australian Premier's Book Award for Non-Fiction, 2016
  • Longlisted, Stella Prize, 2015

Anyone can see the place where the children died. You take the Princes Highway past Geelong, and keep going west in the direction of Colac. Late in August 2006, soon after I had watched a magistrate commit Robert Farquharson to stand trial before a jury on three charges of murder, I headed out that way on a Sunday morning, across the great volcanic plain.

On the evening of 4 September 2005, Father’s Day, Robert Farquharson, a separated husband, was driving his three sons home to their mother, Cindy, when his car left the road and plunged into a dam. The boys, aged ten, seven and two, drowned. Was this an act of revenge or a tragic accident? The court case became Helen Garner’s obsession. She followed it on its protracted course until the final verdict.

In this utterly compelling book, Helen Garner tells the story of a man and his broken life. She presents the theatre of the courtroom with its actors and audience – all gathered to bear witness to the truth – players in the extraordinary and unpredictable drama of the quest for justice.

This House of Grief is a heartbreaking and unputdownable book by one of Australia’s most admired writers.


‘Helen Garner is an invaluable guide into harrowing territory and offers powerful and unforgettable insights. This House of Grief, in its restraint and control, bears comparison with In Cold Blood.’ Kate Atkinson

‘Helen Garner’s This House of Grief is a gripping account of a murder trial in which few of the participants act and react in ways we might predict. It’s an examination not just of what happened, but also of what we prefer to believe and what we cannot face believing.’ Julian Barnes

This House of Grief has all the trademark Helen Garner touches: harrowing scenes recorded without restraint or censorship; touching observations of characters’ weaknesses; wry moments of humour. And also customary with Garner’s work, her words, and the boys’ fate, will haunt us long after we’ve turned the last page.’ Guardian

‘It grabbed me by the throat in the same way that the podcast series Serial did. Ms. Garner brilliantly and compassionately recounts the harrowing, real-life trial of Robert Farquharson.’ Gillian Anderson, Wall Street Journal, Books of the Year 2015

‘Clear-eyed and deeply moving…Garner’s skills as a novelist combine with her journalist incisiveness to give a vivid, compassionate and complex assessment of the crime and the societal issues surrounding it…This House of Grief is a book that preys on the mind—its themes are enormous, classical and highly contemporary. Some readers will find they have to put it down, now and again, because the story it tells is so tragically sad—but so compelling that they won’t put it down for long.’ NZ Herald

‘A brilliant, poetic work of jurisprudence…Another beauty of Garner’s writing is her exceptional lyricism. Garner’s spare, clean style flowers into magnificent poetry.’ Australian Book Review

‘It is as involving, heart-rending and unsettling a read as you could possibly find.‘ Sunday Times

‘Helen Garner’s account of the trial is a non-literary variation of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It is all the more shocking for her direct, no-nonsense, often horrified, approach.’ Eileen Battersby, Books of the Year, Irish Times

‘In This House of Grief, Helen Garner describes with wonderful subtlety and honesty the trail of a man accused of drowning his three sons; she is fascinated by what we’re capable of and how fiercely we hide it from ourselves.’ Helen Simpson, Books of the Year, Times Literary Supplement

This House of Grief exposes the deeply complex rivers of emotion that run through us all. Garner has a talent for scrutinising those aspects of life that most of us would rather turn away from and illuminating those truths for all to understand.’ Hoopla

‘In its literary alchemy it crystallises fundamental questions that we need to keep asking about our legal system.’ Conversation

‘Helen Garner’s riveting non-fiction gem is a darkly intriguing work.’ New Daily’s Top Ten Books of 2014

‘This is vintage Garner reportage, with brilliantly observed details and deft weaving of courtroom drama and small-town back story.’ North and South

‘[Garner] doesn’t merely listen. She watches, imagines, second-guesses, empathises, agonises. Her voice—intimate yet sharp, wry yet urgent—inspires trust.’ Atlantic